The Netherlands is the latest country to lurch to the right amid the global cost of living crisis. Its November election saw maverick far-right populist Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) come first. A hardline Islamophobe who’s called for the Quran to be banned could be the next prime minister.
For many of Argentina’s voters the choice on 19 November was between the lesser of two evils: Sergio Massa, the minister overseeing an economy with the world’s third-highest inflation rate, or Javier Milei, an erratic far-right libertarian outsider promising to shut down the Central Bank, adopt the US dollar as the currency, cut taxes and privatise public services.
Australia had the chance to take a step forward in redressing the exclusion of its Indigenous people – and chose not to. In a referendum held in October, voters rejected a constitutional amendment to establish an institution for Indigenous people to have a say on matters that concern them.
The need to act on the climate crisis has never been clearer. In 2023, heat records have been shattered around the world. Seemingly every day brings news of extreme weather, imperilling lives. In July, UN Secretary-General António Guterres grimly announced
that ‘the era of global boiling has arrived’.
For many of Argentina’s voters the choice in the 19 November presidential runoff is between the lesser of two evils: Sergio Massa, economy minister of a government that’s presiding over a once-in-a-generation economic meltdown with a whopping 140-per cent inflation rate, or Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian who admires Donald Trump, wants to shut down the Central Bank and wields a chainsaw in public as a symbol of his willingness to slash the state. Many will rue that it ever came to this.
In response to lawsuits brought by LGBTQI+ activists, the Mauritius Supreme Court has issued two landmark judgments
striking down the criminalisation of consensual sex between adult men as unconstitutional. Its reasoning turned upside down the argument used by anti-rights forces to attack LGBTQI+ activists in many African countries: it acknowledged that criminalisation is the foreign import rather than gay sex, and a relic of colonialism it’s high time to shake off.
Brazil’s Supreme Court has delivered a long-awaited ruling upholding Brazilian Indigenous peoples’ claims to their traditional land. It did so by rejecting the ‘Temporal Framework
’ principle, which only allowed for the demarcation and titling of lands physically occupied by the Indigenous groups who claimed them by 5 October 1988, when the current constitution was adopted. This excluded the numerous Indigenous communities who’d been violently expelled from their ancestral lands before then, including under military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985.
It’s a rapid reversal for New Zealand’s Labour Party, in power for six years. At the last election
in 2020 it won an outright majority, the first party to do so under the current voting system. But three years on, it’s finished a distant second in the election held on 14 October. The result speaks to a broader pattern seen amid economic strife in many countries – of intense political volatility and the rejection of incumbents.
Ahead of the presidential election, Solih faced accusations of irregularities in his party’s primary vote, in which he defeated former president Mohamed Nasheed. The Electoral Commission was accused of making it harder for rival parties to stand, including the Democrats, a breakaway party Naheed formed after the primary vote. The ruling party also appeared to be instrumentalising public media and state resources in its favour. Solih’s political alliances with conservative religious parties were in the spotlight, including with the Adhaalath Party, which has taken an increasingly intolerant stance on women’s and LGBTQI+ rights.
Mexico’s Supreme Court recently declared abortion bans unconstitutional, effectively decriminalising abortion throughout the vast federal country, so far characterised by a legislative patchwork.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by a civil society organisation, Information Group on Reproductive Choice. It forces the Federal Congress to repeal the Federal Penal Code articles that criminalise abortion. Effective immediately, those seeking abortions and those providing them can no longer be punished for doing so. The ruling also enshrines the right to access abortion procedures in all institutions of the federal health system network, even in states where the crime of abortion remains on the books.
Maryam al-Khawaja’s journey home ended before it had begun: British Airways staff stopped her boarding her flight at the request of Bahraini immigration authorities. Maryam was no regular passenger: her father is veteran human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, in jail in Bahrain for 12 years and counting.
It’s a year since a photo of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini – bruised and in a coma she would never recover from after being arrested by the morality police for her supposedly improperly worn hijab – went viral, sending people onto the streets.
On 26 August, Gabon went through the motions of an election. Official results were announced four days later, in the middle of the night, with the country under curfew. Predictably, incumbent President Ali Bongo, in power since the death of his father and predecessor in 2009, was handed a third term. Fraud allegations were rife, as in previous elections. But this time something unprecedented happened: less than an hour later the military had taken over, and the Bongo family’s 56-year reign had ended.
This September, world leaders and public policy advocates from around the world will descend on New York for the UN General Assembly
. Alongside conversations on peace and security, global development and climate change, progress – or the lack of it – on the Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) is expected to take centre-stage. A major SDG Summit
will be held on 18 and 19 September. The UN hopes that it will serve as a ‘rallying cry to recharge momentum for world leaders to come together to reflect on where we stand and resolve to do more’. But are the world’s leaders in a mood to uphold the UN’s purpose, and can the UN’s leadership rise to the occasion by resolutely addressing destructive behaviours?
On 20 August, Guatemala witnessed a rare event: despite numerous attempts to stop it, the will of the majority prevailed. Democracy was at a dramatic crossroads
, but voters got their say, and said it clearly: the country needs dramatic change and needs it now.
Civic space is deteriorating in Senegal ahead of next February’s presidential election. Recent protests have been met with lethal violence and internet and social media restrictions. Senegal’s democracy will soon face a key test, and whether it passes will depend largely on whether civic space is respected.
Protests against the high cost of living in Kenya have been met with police violence. Talks are currently underway
between government and opposition – but whatever results will fall short unless it brings accountability for the catalogue of human rights violations committed in response to protests.
The title shouldn’t fool you: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is one of the world’s longest-ruling
autocrats. A political survivor, this former military commander had been bolted to his chair since 1985, presiding over what he turned into a de facto one-party system – and now apparently a dynastic regime.
Freedom of expression is under threat as governments in Southern Africa have enacted laws restricting civil society organizations, says global rights advocacy organisation, CIVICUS, warning that human rights violations are on the increase globally.
Nepal is the latest country to join the global wave of marriage equality. On 28 June, its Supreme Court ruled that the government must immediately offer temporary registration of same-sex marriages, pending a change in the law. Around 200
couples reportedly sought to register as soon as the court judgment was made.
At a meeting with European and Latin American leaders in Brussels this July, Brazil’s President Lula da Silva reiterated the bold commitment
he had made in his first international speech
as president-elect, when he attended the COP27 climate summit
in November 2022: bringing Amazon deforestation down to zero by 2030.